VETERANS: Senate Approves Extended Health Coverage
By a staggering 96-1 margin, the Senate passed an amendment drafted by Armed Services Committee Chair John Warner (R-Va.) and Arkansas Sen. Tim Hutchinson (R) that would allow career military retirees over 65 to remain in Tricare, the Defense Department's health insurance program, the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reports. "[This] sends the proper message ... that the Congress, the American people, will honor our promises to military personnel," Hutchinson said (Howe, 6/8). "It's a quantum leap forward," Warner added. Under current law, military retirees over 65 lose Tricare coverage and are shifted into the private health care market, often relying on Medicare, which forces retirees to spend thousands of dollars annually on supplemental insurance policies. The plan, set to take effect in 2001, would cost an estimated $42 billion over the next 10 years, according to the Congressional Budget Office. Despite having resisted a major health care package for months, Warner finally bowed to political pressure. "It is expensive, but I think it's essential that we keep the faith," he said, noting that the plan would help an estimated 770,000 retirees. Frank Rohrbough, a lobbyist for the Retired Officers Association, said, "Many [retirees] will say this will go a long way toward fulfilling the promise that was made to them." The House approved a similar plan last month (Lerman, Newport News Daily Press, 6/7).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.